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Channel History

by mota

It occurs to me that it's probably about time to write out a history of the channel. By my reckoning, the channel in its current form has only been around for 6 or 7 years and we are already starting to forget stuff!

As of today (June 7, 2010) chanserv has this to say about the original #windows channel (note the single hash!):

Information on #windows:
Founder    : freenode-staff
Registered : Dec 06 07:41:49 2002 (7 years, 26 weeks, 3 days, 17:29:31 ago)
Last used  : Jun 10 21:25:57 2004 (5 years, 51 weeks, 6 days, 03:45:23 ago)
Mode lock  : +intcPf ##windows
Flags      : HOLD SECURE KEEPTOPIC TOPICLOCK GUARD

I was not actually on freenode, or at least not interested in having anything to do with a channel about Windows, when the #windows channel (with single hash) was originally registered. I don't recall who the original channel owner was. (Before the big switch to ircd-seven, channels had 'owners' not 'founders'). I do know that the original owner was a named person who didn't like Windows very much. Ownership of the #windows channel was later changed to "freenode-staff"; I know this because I was there when this happened.

2003

If I recall correctly, I started hanging out in #windows sometime in mid 2003. I used the nick quux at the time. When I joined #windows, there were around a dozen people idling in the channel, and it was pretty quiet, except for people who would sometimes stop in to say things like "Windows sucks, use Linux!" and then leave immediately. A few of the idling regulars would laugh and cheer them on, and that was the channel. 

Once in a great while someone would actually ask a real question about Windows; and that would usually be met with ridicule.
I decided to start answering such questions in earnest. This was met with some surprise by the existing channel regulars, who had mostly formed the channel as a joke. But after a little constructive arguing on my behalf, they seemed content to let me do it. Or maybe just not energetic enough to stop me from doing it. As best I can recall, no one had chanop privileges; the original channel owner (whose name I have regrettably forgotten) spoke very rarely and created no other chanops. Later, he disappeared altogether. I remember trying to track him down once, without results.

As time went by, more people began stopping in for actual help with Windows; others began giving help. This was a very tumultuous time in the channel's history; there seemed to be an undercurrent of resistance to the idea of a Windows channel actually trying to be helpful within the freenode network. I want to be clear about that - the network staff themselves were mostly sanguine about it, and did help quash large spam attacks. But in those days a lot of people stopped in to razz us, or to spam us, or to pick fights with us. I toiled on (I had a lot more spare time in those days), trying to create a positive atmosphere, but not shying away from the inevitable 'Linux vs. Windows' arguments.

I tried always to be about the facts rather than the emotions and bashing. I never felt that the 'Linux vs Windows' argument actually needed a clear winner. My position has always been that a person should use technology they are comfortable with, and not worry too much about what sort of technology the other guy is using, unless it actively hurts him in some way. Still, many rather contentious discussions were held - a lot of people really hated Windows, and really wanted to have and 'win' that so-called argument. All I cared about was that everyone try to stick to facts during such discussions.

I remember HentaiXP being around in those days; he lived on Guam and so was often active in the channel during what were, for me, the late-late hours of the night. But still we talked from time to time. I have to apologize to the other regulars from those early days; I've forgotten all of your nicks (names). HentaiXP I recall because he is still around as I write this in June of 2010; he and I are, I think, the two longest-standing vocal regulars. 

2004

Somewhere along the line, the extra activity in #windows attracted Lilo's attention; probably because more than once I solicited freenode staff help in quelling some of the more nauseating troll attacks we were regularly subjected to in those days. These attacks would go on for hours, with people spamming either short statements of hate, or long, annoying, pornographic GNAA type material to the channel. By then we had grown to something like 40-50 users; probably fairly well divided between those who actually wanted to give or get help with Windows, and those who wanted to ridicule it. Even this latter group disliked the spam attacks, though.

Late in 2004, I created a set of guidelines for the channel, at http://windows.jot.com. This is a dead link now, but at the time JotSpot was a free wiki provider - later bought by Google. As I recall there grew to be about 25 pages at that site, including the guidelines and a number of technical answers and tips. Archive.org only tracked the windows.jot.com site from February through December of 2007, but I recall signing up for the windows.jot.com page there, soon after they opened for business (which was in October of 2004). I had to employ a number of tricks to keep our page count below 25, because that was all a free account would allow. As of Feb 18, 2007 (the earliest date the site is shown at the archive.org Wayback Machine), the windows.jot.com site was up to revision 118. We ran this xkcd comic on our front page for quite some time (yes Virginia, you can do regular expressions in Windows!).

I had many long chats with Lilo. I can't recall any specifics, and while I may have some logs archived somewhere, they aren't handy at the moment. From what I recall, he was somewhat undecided about the channel. He definitely did, as a freenode staffer, ban or k-line a number of people who spammed us mercilessly. On the other hand, he seemed uncomfortable with the idea of freenode having a ##windows channel at all. I can recall when he determined that the channel owner's nick had been more than a year inactive, and so he removed it, and registered the channel to freenode-staff. At the time he told me that he was doing this according to freenode's policy on primary channels, saying that since no one from Microsoft had claimed the channel, he would reserve it until such time as they did. I can also recall him saying something about a 'reputational cost to freenode as a whole' (that may not be exactly the way he phrased it) if the #windows channel continued to grow.

I continued, from time to time, discussing it with him. I and a few others also started asking how we could have local management of the channel. This was something he passively refused, time and again. He never definitely said we couldn't locally manage the channel, but never quite got around to allowing us our own management either. We struck a deal: anytime the channel was being harassed and no other freenode staff were available, I or a few other regulars could page Lilo directly, and he would take action as needed. And mostly he did do this, even when we had to wake him out of a sound sleep. We are definitely beholden to him for his literally tireless responses to the many trollspam attacks we had in those days. At one point, his pager number was in plaintext in the channel topic, and anyone could page him, 24x7!

In June of 2004, a number of us in the channel managed to get Lilo to have basically a meeting, in channel, with all the regulars present. After a couple hours of discussion, we thought he had agreed to set up a channel forward to the more proper (according to policy) ##windows (note double hash!) channel, and close out the old single-hash #windows, and let us have a few channel operators. And a couple of days later he did come back, and setup the new channel for us, and create the forward/redirect from the old to the new. But somehow he didn't really seem to remember having agreed to let us have a few channel operators of our own. So we muddled along under the old deal, paging Lilo directly when we were overrun by trolls.

Sometime between June and December of 2004, I became a 'freenode Helper'. This meant that I had a staff-like cloak, and was empowered to talk to people generally about issues they were having anywhere on the network, but I didn't actually have any network privileges. Which is to say, I couldn't op myself in channels, or k-line people, or otherwise throw my weight around. Mostly I could try and talk people down off a ledge, or if they made huge nuisances of themselves, get a senior staffer to throw his weight around (or hers, as the case might be) with a network ban or whatever. This had little impact on the channel, other than that I sometimes had to try and talk the occasional IRC nutball out of being a troll in other channels, and said nutball would then follow me back to ##windows and troll there.

2005-2006

An unanticipated side benefit of my becoming a freenode Helper was that because I was rubbing elbows with other freenode staffers, they began to see me less as 'that guy from ##windows who is always whining for help' and more as the thoughtful, helpful, handsome and virile guy I really am (ahem). And so, sometime in 2005 (March I think), I remember sitting down at my computer and finding out that Christel (one of the senior freenode staffers at that time - Lilo was still alive) had created a few channel operators in the ##windows channel. They were h0bbel, hentaiXP, and myself. If there were others, (and I think there were) I can't remember them at this time. I believe (but am not sure) that h0bbel was chosen because Christel knew him from other channels. He did exercise his chanop powers occasionally and for the good of the channel, but was to the best of my recollection, largely silent on channel matters, and I don't hold it against him. Being a channel operator is not nearly as much fun as you might imagine, and h0bbel wisely kept his head down most of the time.

It is important to note that even with our new local management, both the locked #windows and the newer ##windows channel were still "owned" by freenode-staff. I was not averse to this, in fact the ##linux channel (where I also held chanop privs for a time) had the same deal at the time: 'owned' by freenode-staff, but 'managed' by more local channel denizens. As I recall, the thinking at the time was that neither Linus Torvalds nor Bill Gates were going to descend from their high perches and own these channels themselves, so it made sense that freenode essentially act in stewardship for them. However freenode has historically had a limited number of network staff, and so it in turn sought others to more locally manage these two channels which represent their own large user communities.

As a part of this deal it was always made clear that we welcomed freenode staff and helpers to have channel operator privileges in the channel. Our ways of managing the channel were always very closely modeled on the freenode catalyst philosophy, so they were a good fit, with the single caveat that our channel has always welcomed the traditional Linux vs Windows argument, as long as it remained civil. 

    • October 8, 2006: njan and Arrick were made staff channel operators
    • Sometime in 2006, I became a full freenode staffer. I think it was before Lilo died, but I am not sure.
    • Sept 16, 2006: Rob "lilo" Levin died. He was founder and leader of freenode until this time; Christel Dahlskjaer succeeded him as the new operational leader.

2007-2008
  • Feb 13 2007: Cpudan80 was made a channel operator. 
  • Feb 20 2007: Arrick steps down as channel operator
  • Sometime in Feb or March 2007: jonathand was made staff channel operator.
  • March 
  • Sometime prior to July 29 2007: I stepped down as channel 'leader' and njan got the honor. I think we actually held an election? 
  • Aug 23, 2007: Mattie gives us the "Windows" Google group
  • Sept 24, 2007: njan submits the 'GCF' (group contact form) requesting our use of the ##windows-* family of channelnames on freenode. Here is the email from the old GCF approval system. I believe it was approved within the week. We were still using windows.jot.com as our web page at the time.
  • Within the following months, we began stressing the three words 'polite, reasonable, constructive' as our main channel guidelines. This change in philosophy arose out of discussions njan started. I recall him wanting to use the word 'civil' but my objecting that this carried some connotations some folks would have trouble with. 
  • Sometime in 2007-8, AfterDeath put his bot, AntiSpamMeta in ##windows - it is the one which notifies various people when someone types !ops in the channel (the call for help is relayed to the ##asb-nexus channel)
  • ???? philkc writes dircbot (in the D language), whose job is to help us keep track of bans.
  • ???? scratchme was made an op, but fairly quickly stepped down
  • Sometime in 2008, triggered by a local internet outage, I began my 'hiatus'. Probably before 2008/02/25
  • Soon after, generalhan and theacolyte were made channel operators.
  • Oct 28, 2008: pinpoint was added as staff channel operator.
  • ???? jpalmer was made an op

2009-2010
  • Mid 2009, I returned to ##windows, using the new nick mota (which I chose by simply spelling the word 'atom' backwards). Within a month the channel staff (who still didn't know I was quux) offered me an 'about/windows' cloak. I felt guilty, but I accepted it.
  • Late 2009/early 2010, I reveal that mota==quux. But only to the staff operators of ##windows. The 'secret' did slowly trickle out to a few other long-time ##windows regulars.
  • Jan 30, 2010: freenode migrates to ircd-seven (this accounts for some discrepancies in channel access lists, and is when channel 'owners' became known as 'founders')
  • May 15, 2010: awstott was added as staff channel operator.
  • June 1 2010: theacolyte steps down as channel operator and comes back shortly afterwards!
  • July 10, 2010: blood was added as staff channel operator.
  • July 28, 2010: Brimstar was added as staff channel operator.
  • November 12, 2010: theacolyte steps down again, and removes himself from all channel ACLs.
  • November 2010: Google Groups gives notice that they will remove all 'pages' functionality from that app. We decide to move our web content to Google Sites. Over the next month or so, blood does most of the page layout work. jpalmer registers the domain freenode-windows.org.
  • December 23, 2010: citing personal issues, njan formally steps down as 'channel leader' and hands the duties to JonathanD. The change is announced in our ##windows-ops back channel. No channel flags are edited.
2011
  • April 5, 2011: Google Groups removes all 'pages' from our areas there. Mota hastily recovers what he can and places it at the new Google Sites address:  http://www.freenode-windows.org. 
  • April 12, 2011: mrmist and KB1JWQ/Corey are added as a channel operators.
  • May 28, 2011: jpalmer steps down from chanop duties.
  • June 6, 2011: HentaiXP and blood are removed from chanops list due to inactivity. 
  • June 9, 2011: jpalmer transfers the freenode-windows.org DNS domain to JonathanD
  • June 15, 2011: Ethos was added as a staff channel operator. (Later changed nick to SysTom.)
  • Jun 16, 2011: generalhan removed from chanops list due to inactivity; he has life stuff going on. Hopes to come back later though.
  • Jun 27, 2011: Stryyker was added as a staff channel operator.
  • Jun 7, 2011: Channel founder flag edited - was njan only, as of this date it has both njan and jonathand
  • Sept 29, 2011: generalhan returns.
  • Oct 18, 2011: PZt was added as a staff channel operator.
  • Dec 23, 2011: sepeck was added as a staff channel operator.
2015
  • Sept 3, 2015: weq and TheBard added as staff channel operators.

The earlier parts of this document (2002-2006) were written from my personal memory, which means I may have left a few things out, and possibly mistaken a few others. Where I've included firm dates, these are validated from logs or other sources like the Wayback Machine, channel ACLS, old emails, etc. In 2009, I began recording our milestone events as they happened. If I have missed or mistaken something important to you, please email or PM me!

One thing I have learned in trying to write this: history fades quickly! If you maintain any sort of online community, get started on your historical docs and artifacts now. You may think you'll remember it all later, but it is pretty surprising how fast our digital histories fade. 
Subpages (1): Original GCF